Ever wonder how far a coding bootcamp education can get you? Travis Cook was a successful tech recruiter when he decided to focus on his true passion: technology and data. When Devmountain opened in 2013, Travis enrolled in their first coding bootcamp cohort, and after an 8-year career in tech, he now works as a Senior Front End Developer at Xant. Travis reflects on the long-term benefits of attending Devmountain, and what sets coding bootcamp grads apart in the job market today. Plus, learn how Travis’ bootcamp experience helped him land front end developer roles at SlingTV and Clearlink, and his advice to future Devmountain students.
What inspired you to pivot into tech and enroll at Devmountain 8 years ago?
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management from Utah Valley University. While I was there, I completed an internship in Human Resources and switched my focus to recruiting. I worked as a recruiter for about seven years, where I did high-volume hiring, including for developer roles.
During my time as a recruiter, I noticed that I loved technology. I always volunteered to be the systems administrator for our HR information systems or offered to do reporting and analytics for our hiring data. When I worked at eBay as a contractor in HR, they allowed me to work with data and analytics during my time there. This experience solidified for me that I liked working with technology, information, and data more than I enjoyed working with recruiting and hiring.
After eBay, I started a recruiting job at Clearlink and then discovered Devmountain in an article about a new coding bootcamp coming to Utah. My cousin's husband was involved with them and, after talking with him, I decided I was interested in applying. At the time, I didn’t know how to code and I only had experience with Excel and spreadsheets, but I interviewed and was able to join the first cohort at Devmountain in 2013!
When you graduated from Devmountain in 2013, what had you learned?
For my capstone project, I decided to create a social media aggregator. This was before the acquisition of Instagram by Facebook. The idea was to build a social media platform that would pull all of the different social media feeds into one feed. I was pretty ambitious then, and it was a fun project. I built it with AngularJS and Node.js, and I learned a lot in the process. We got to present our projects to various companies that were curious about our coding bootcamp.
How have you evolved as a software engineer over your decade-long career?
Of course, my knowledge and skills have grown over time, and my attitude has changed along the way, too. I have become much more collaborative. One of the most refreshing things about being a developer is the general mindset that we, as a profession, collaborate and contribute. If you get on an online repository, people contribute their knowledge. It's an open space for people to ask questions and others are ready to answer. No one hoards information in web development and I've adopted that collaborative attitude.
Eight years later, are you still in touch with your cohort or instructors?
I am connected on social media with my classmates. I have also bumped into them in the professional sphere and have even worked alongside Devmountain graduates from other cohorts.
How did Devmountain prepare you for the job market?
Since I graduated, I have referred several people to Devmountain bootcamps, including my brother-in-law, and I know they provide a lot more job resources and support to students. But back then, Devmountain had a smaller administrative staff, so there wasn't a ton of career support. I was still working at Clearlink while doing the bootcamp, but after I graduated from Devmountain, I worked with Clearlink’s front end developer team. Even though I had zero years of experience, I saw a big pay raise as an entry-level front end developer compared to my old job as a Recruitment Supervisor with six years of experience!
Tell us about your career path since graduating from Devmountain?
I was more comfortable with front end development, so a lot of my experience post-boot camp was in front-end development.
Over the past 8 years, I’ve worked in 5 technical jobs:
What kinds of projects are you working on as a Senior Front End Developer at Xant?
Xant is a sales software company. Our software pairs with Salesforce to create playbooks that help create a standardized flow for all sales processes and leads. I am currently working on an ad hoc calendar scheduler that will allow users to schedule leads and appointments with integration with Gmail and Outlook.
Are you using what you learned at Devmountain in your job today?
Has Devmountain continued to help you move up in your career over the years?
When I was a few years out from my Devmountain graduation, I wanted to enhance my skills in React. I had graduated from bootcamp before React was a thing, but my current jobs used React. Devmountain allowed me to audit their React classes, and I was able to brush up on a new skill!
Over the years, how have hiring managers/recruiters reacted to your bootcamp education as you’ve applied for developer jobs?
When I first graduated from Devmountain, interviewers were used to candidates with computer science degrees, so I received many questions about my coding bootcamp experience. Over the years, I have seen more bootcamp grads getting scooped up in my last few roles and I have even interviewed bootcamp grads myself. Today, organizations are a lot more open now to hiring bootcamp grads.
What sets a coding bootcamp apart from a computer science degree?
The biggest distinction is that computer science degrees focus more on theory whereas coding bootcamps focus on practical skill application. In a CS curriculum, there also isn't as much emphasis on current tech trends. On the other hand, bootcamps are about getting students hands on a keyboard to spend time coding, learn the current trends, and develop those skills. I believe employers are beginning to recognize that they want employees with skills and not just theory.
What advice would you give a recent bootcamp graduate who is looking for their first job?
Experience matters more than salary, so don't solely focus on salary when looking for your first tech role. Instead, focus on building valuable experience through your first job in order to enhance your education and growth within the field. The tech job market offers a good salary to developers who know what they're doing.
Eight years later, do you ever find yourself still struggling with imposter syndrome? Any advice for a new developer feeling unsure of themselves?
Absolutely. I have always had imposter syndrome, I’ve talked with other senior developers who struggle with it, too. I remember being terrified in my first developer job that they would find out that I knew nothing. I still feel that way some days now. It rears its ugly head the most when I’m stuck on a problem, I’ve looked over everything, and I feel like the issue should be solving itself by now.
One technique I would recommend in combating imposter syndrome is talking through the problem aloud or finding someone to explain what you're doing and steps you've taken. I can't tell you the number of times midway through explaining that I realized what I forgot to do. You just need a different perspective sometimes. I have also found that going to look at some of your old code can help stifle imposter syndrome. When I look back on my old code, I quickly realize how much better I am now.
Looking back on the past decade, was attending Devmountain worth it for you?
Absolutely. I knew nothing and could not have self-taught myself to code. Devmountain gave me the start I needed and it was the best career decision I ever made. My only regret is Devmountain wasn't around sooner!
What is your advice for current bootcampers in 2021?
Get as much as you can out of your bootcamp. This is not college where you are just trying to get a good grade. Instead, you're trying to acquire skills that will get you a career, so don't waste your time!
8 non-profit bootcamps with a mission to change tech!
How NexGenT helped Iris pivot into network engineering in 24 weeks!
Lighthouse Labs breaks down data viz tools: Matplotlib, Seaborn, and Plotly!